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Kinky Boots' Kyle Taylor Parker on Loving Real Housewives and Filling Billy Porter's Shoes

Parker plays Lola in the Broadway musical through April 26.

Kyle Taylor Parker plays Lola in Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper's Kinky Boots, directed by Jerry Mitchell, at Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
(© Matthew Murphy)

Kyle Taylor Parker will always have a big place in his heart for Kinky Boots. The 25-year-old musical-theater phenomenon made his Broadway debut as one of the angels in the original cast before assuming the role of Lola for the first national tour. Now he's leading the Broadway cast for a few months (through April 26) while Billy Porter (the role's Tony Award-winning originator) takes a leave of absence to direct the Huntington Theatre Company production of The Colored Museum in Boston. (Porter returns to Kinky Boots on April 28.) Parker's enthusiasm for the feel-good musical and his new role practically beams across the telephone line.

With a book by Harvey Fierstein and score by Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots is the story of a struggling Northampton shoe factory and the fabulous drag diva who helps bring it back to life with a new line of fetish shoes for female impersonators.

Parker spoke to TheaterMania about his new digs, his journey across America (in heels), and his uniquely global childhood.

Kyle Taylor Parker loves to watch Real Housewives in his dressing room on two-show days.
(© Ari Uzi)

You're in your fourth week as Lola on Broadway. How's it going?
It's been so much fun: a triumphant return.

But you're in the big dressing room this time. Did Billy Porter leave you any presents?
He left me some plates so I can have meals between shows and also cable, which is nice between shows as well. I can watch Real Housewives.

Are you a big fan of the Real Housewives?
On a two-show day I am!

What was your favorite city to play on tour?
San Diego was very special to me. The audience was so warm. I loved that city. San Francisco was also a hoot.

Did you have any adventures while you were out on the road?
For the most part you're kind of like a Broadway nun. I would wake up, do the show, and come right back home. You live like a nun. I did get out to Balboa Park in San Diego a few times and that was beautiful. It felt like being in Spain.

You also found time to edit a YouTube Vlog. Where did that come from?
I love social media and the idea of being able to share experiences online. I got the idea from the Travel Channel and how you get to watch these people take all these different adventures. I thought, What if I could document my tour experience as a Broadway travelogue? I had a lot of help editing. I would film and my friend Catherine would edit everything and we'd share it.

What's the difference between a tour audience and a Broadway audience?
Tour audiences are larger, only because the houses are larger. People love the show. They always respond in a big way. You can almost smell the anticipation of the audience when we start "Land of Lola." There's more of an eagerness. But it's a happiness factory, so by the end of the show everyone is dancing, no matter where you are.

Parker played Lola on the first national tour of Kinky Boots.
(© Matthew Murphy)

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Wisconsin by way of the world. My mother works in public health: prevention and awareness of HIV and AIDS. I grew up in East Africa, West Africa, Paris, Zurich, and then, by the time I was in middle school, I was in Wisconsin.

Has that influenced you as an artist?
Absolutely. I speak French fluently. Getting to see so many different corners of the world really broadened my imagination. I don't have limits as far as how big life can be, because I've gotten to see so many different kinds of life.

Of all the places you mentioned, where do you miss the most?
I spent the most time in Ivory Coast, and that was really fabulous. I was encouraged by everyone in the neighborhood to keep singing, and anyplace we would go they would say, "That's the guy with the voice," and make me sing. That was awesome.

Have you had any interesting stage-door encounters since taking over the role of Lola on Broadway?
It's always fun when you run into someone who you don't even know is at the show. I met my music teacher from Interlochen Arts Camp at the stage door. I came out and there she was. That was the most exciting.

When did you attend Interlochen?
The summers when I was nine, ten, and eleven. We found out about the camp while we were living in Africa. The reason why I am where I am today is because my mother invested so much in this thing I fell in love with. We sent an audition tape and I got in. So for three summers, I flew all the way from the Ivory Coast to Michigan and back.

You must have seemed quite exotic to the other campers.
When I moved back to Wisconsin I was known as "the kid from Africa." But I'm not from Africa!

I know you're deep in the Land of Lola, but do you have any dream roles you'd like to play when you emerge?
There are a few. I've been dying to play Harpo in The Color Purple, Walter Lee in A Raisin in the Sun, and any role in Ain't Misbehavin I can get my hands on.

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